On the News With Thom Hartmann: Majority Rule Finally Returns to the US Senate as Democrats Vote to Reform the Filibuster

Truthout depends on you to continue producing grassroots journalism and disseminating conscientious visions for a brighter future. Contribute now by clicking here!

Thom Hartmann here – on the news…

You need to know this. Yesterday, majority rule finally returned to the U.S. Senate. After five years of Republican obstruction, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid invoked the so-called “nuclear option,” with 52 Democrats voting to reform the filibuster. Since President Obama took office, Republicans have used the filibuster more than any other time in our history. And, they have held up more than 1,000 executive nominees to courts and federal agencies. Back in July, Senator Reid tried to make a deal with Republicans to avert the nuclear option. Reid vowed to leave existing rules in place if Republicans agreed to allow a vote on some of President Obama’s nominees. But, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to hold up his end of that bargain, and blocking three presidential appointments to the all-important D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. Finally, enough was enough for Harry Reid and the Democrats, and they voted to change the filibuster rules. For five years, Republicans have used the filibuster to block the President’s choices for important agencies like the EPA, the DC Circuit Court, the National Labor Relations Board, and even the Department of Defense. They have used the procedural maneuver as a weapon, to prevent these agencies from functioning, or to hold on to Republican control of high-profile courts. The level of obstruction was unprecedented, and the nuclear option was far over-due.

In screwed news… We already know that calling natural gas clean energy is a myth, but it turns out, that’s not the only fracking industry lie. According to a new report by the Multi-State Shale Research Collaborative, shale drilling has also produced far fewer jobs than industry supporters claimed. In the six states that span the Marcellus and Utica shale formations, mining companies greatly overstated the number of jobs that fracking would create “in order to maximize or avoid altogether taxation, regulation, and even careful examination of shale drilling.” Between 2005 and 2012, each new well that was drilled only created an average of four jobs, rather than the 31 direct jobs that the industry claimed. According to this report, industry officials even used “questionable assumptions” to predict the number of indirect jobs that would be created from fracking. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the fossil fuel industry lied about job numbers, because they’d say anything to get their hands on more oil and gas. The only ones who benefit from fracking and drilling are the industry executives who are lining their pockets at the expensive of our environment.

In the best of the rest of the news…

Hawaii said ‘No’ to GMOs. A new law on the Big Island bans biotech companies and farmers from growing genetically modified organisms. The legislation exempts papayas, and other crops that are currently being harvested, but it also imposes a $1,000 per day fine for violations. When the bill was passed, supporters of the measure filled the County Council chamber and gave lawmakers a round of applause. Technically, Mayor Billy Kenoi has ten days to veto the new law, but just a few days ago, the County Council overrode his veto of a GMO disclosure. It’s likely they would do so again if he tried to block the GMO ban. The bill had broad support on the Big Island of Hawaii, including at least two farmers’ groups who worried about GMOs cross-contaminating their crops. The Hawaii Farmers Union United and Kona Coffee Farmers Association both backed the legislation. The people of Hawaii wanted the right to keep GMOs out of their food supply, and together they made that happen. Now, we need to bring that fight to every state in America.

According to RadCast.org, radiation waves are still effecting levels throughout our country. Near the East Coast, Charleston, West Virginia is reporting readings of 43 counts per minute, with spikes of 66. In Robbinsvile, New Jersey, levels are sitting at 45 counts per minute, but spikes are as high as 71. In the Midwest, Frederic, Wisconsin is hovering at 48 counts per minute, and spiking at 65, and Layton, Utah is also at 48, with spikes of 61 counts per minute. In the Southwest, Chino Valley Arizona is seeing spikes up to 72, but levels there are averaging 56 counts per minute. Over on the West Coast, levels are calmer, with Seattle, Washington only seeing spikes of 39. RadCast.org reminds us that their alert level is 100 counts per minute, and they’re monitoring closely to keep us informed.

And finally… Senator Rand Paul says he’s trying to make amends with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. After exchanging numerous jabs over the past year, the Kentucky Senator says he wants to work out their differences over a “fried Twinkie” at the Iowa State Fair. Senator Paul has previously criticized Christie for requesting federal relief funds in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, accepting federal money to expand Obamacare, and he’s made more than one reference to the Governor’s weight by referring to Christie as “the king of bacon.” During an interview on Wednesday, Senator Paul said, “I’ve been trying to get him to go out for a beer with me anyway, so maybe you can get that organized. Or if there’s a state fair, we can go for a fried Twinkie.” Perhaps Rand Paul was honestly trying to be agreeable, or he just found a way to be snarky about Christie’s weight and the FDA banning trans fats at the same time.

And that’s the way it is today – Friday, November 22, 2013. I’m Thom Hartmann – on the news.